Raina MacIntyre, an infectious disease expert, said that if the saliva test could play a role in the tests, it should be seen as a “backup” and people should be discouraged from relying on the result.
“If there is a risk that you have been exposed, you should take all precautions and retest,” said Professor MacIntyre, who heads the biosafety research program at the University’s Kirby Institute from New South Wales.
She said there was also a risk of false negatives with throat swabs only, with the nasopharyngeal test – where a 15 cm tampon is inserted into the cavity between the nose and mouth – the most reliable.
Victorian Minister of Health Jenny Mikakos said the saliva test would initially be “concentrated in our priority suburbs”, where health officials launched a door blitz to test as many residents as possible.
“[The saliva test] will also be used by travelers returning from quarantine in hotels, in particular to ensure that children in quarantine will also have the opportunity to be tested, “said Mikakos.
“Taking the traditional swab test can be very uncomfortable for children as well as people with dementia and [in] nursing homes, people with disabilities and others. “
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said on Sunday that one of the reasons for the high rate of refusal of nose and throat swabs at quarantine hotels in Victoria was that parents refused to give consent to their grandchildren.
Professor Lewin said it was much better to have a saliva test than no test at all and that the institute would work with the Victorian Health Department to assess its long-term effectiveness.
“The advantage of the saliva test is that it is much more acceptable for people to give a sample, people just need to collect the saliva in their mouth for a minute or two and then spit it out in a small jar “, she said.
“We believe this will play a role in strengthening the scope of testing across the state, in particular … in vulnerable populations or in people who have problems with throat removal such as children or ‘other people who find it more acceptable. “
A spokesperson for the federal Department of Health said that if the saliva test was not intended to replace the throat and nasal swab, it would help increase the rate of tests in the community because it was “minimally invasive “and reduced the need for personal protective equipment for the tester. .
New South Wales health chief Dr. Kerry Chant said Monday at the state parliament public accountability committee that his department would monitor global and local searches and evidence for ” the reliability and feasibility “of saliva tests before using them.
The Victorian government followed the example of New South Wales by adding 10 days to the quarantine stay at the hotel of return travelers who refuse a COVID-19 test, after it turned out that up to 30 % were released into the community without being tested. Less than 2% of those quarantined in Sydney hotels refused a test.
Researchers at the Doherty Institute achieved 87% accuracy by testing 600 people with COVID-19 symptoms at the Royal Melbourne Hospital using both saliva and conventional throat and nasal swab tests.
On Sunday, the first 100 saliva tests were carried out at Keilor Downs, the center of one of the Melbourne epidemics.
With Kate Aubusson, Rachael Dexter and Michael Fowler
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Dana is a health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.